Valentine’s Day Goodies: Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates

If I’m going to review something, then it might as well be delicious! Lucky us, we were sent a selection of very delicious chocolates and candies from Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates

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These were some of the most delicious gourmet chocolates I’ve ever had. They’re rich and smooth, with beautiful packaging to boot. And because we know so many friends with nut allergies, it’s great to know that a company such as Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates provides allergy friendly confections.

 

My favorites are a toss up between the Crispy Rice Chocolates and the Valentines Drops. The beautiful chocolates and candy that we were sent to review for Valentine’s Day are reasonably priced. I appreciate that they’re affordable, yet gourmet quality chocolates suitable for your Valentine or your little sweeties!

We had fun doing a little video in honor of these delicious chocolates. Check it out!

 

 

Beyond Valentine’s Day, Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates has an expansive selection of chocolates and other treats, perfect for those on the hunt for nut-free confections.

Dream as Big as the Sea: Free Whale Nursery Printable

When life gets a little foggy, I can’t help but to get creative. So, I designed this fun whale nursery printable.

My creative juices were flowing especially heavy as I was set to attend a friend’s baby shower this morning. Even though I’d already bought a basket full of baby goodies from her registry, (from Tommee Tippee, no less!) I felt that her basket was missing a personal touch. I noticed that my friend’s nursery had a nautical theme, with vintage whales as a prominent motif. Given her husband’s love of fishing and their mutual appreciation for the band Phish, their choice for a theme for their baby boy’s nursery was so sweet. 

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Coincidentally, just a few years ago, I remember pinning quite a few whale-themed ideas for my littler guy’s nursery and changing space. My ideas never quite came into fruition, but nevertheless, I love the idea of whales in a nursery. So much can be done for accent colors: grays, greens and all those beautiful shades of blue.

As I brainstormed ideas for my friend’s gift, I wanted to make a personalized print featuring whales and a relevant quote. Because my friend’s husband is an avid reader, I wanted to include a literary quote of some sort. I tried to think of a Herman Melville quote from Moby Dick, but everything seemed too heavy for a baby’s nursery. So, I chose a simple, yet bold statement applicable to any and everyone: Dream as Big as the Sea. Simple and straightforward.

 

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I zeroed in on the flow of the text and contrast of the whales.  The waves are subtle, yet significant as the statement itself. I printed this out on some shimmery paper that I had leftover from another project and framed it in a Pottery Barn frame that I was saving for something perfect.  

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I loved the way this print turned out—so much so, I wanted to share it with you. I appreciate free printables and how accessible they’ve become because of the Googles and Pinterest, this is my way of paying it forward. So, if you’re able to use this free whale nursery printable or gift it to someone, let me know! Share in the comments below or “pin” it for others to enjoy too!

Download the PDF for the free whale nursery printable below. Enjoy!

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2014 Best Baby Gifts

Since this year was the year of the baby within my circle of friends and family, I thought I’d share just a few of my favorite baby products from the year. Beyond all the typical baby gifts, my favorite baby gifts to give and receive are always the practical ones. So, here are just a few of my faves:

 

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1. O-Ball Linky Loops

This cool take on the classic links provide a modern aesthetic while giving babies great grasping toys to play with and chew on while in a carrier or stroller. Links are always some of my favorite toys because you can link them together and attach other toys to the carrier.

2. Cloud B 

Cloud B makes some of the coolest illuminating toys that are perfect for baby’s nurseries. The Tranquil Turtle combines soothing sounds with a relaxing glow, giving it a tranquil, almost spa-like feel for babies and kids to enjoy as they fall asleep.

3. Stokke Trailz

Stokke entered the all terrain territory with its new Stokke Trailz stroller. This sleek stroller merges that chic Scandinavian design with function. Like their other strollers,Stokke Trailz boasts an elevated seat and ample storage. This new stroller allows families to navigate all terrains, whether it’s bumpy city streets of unpredictable surfaces in the country.

4. Hape Roller Derby

Some of the best toys for babies are the ones that are kid-powered. Hape is one of my absolute favorite brands for fine wooden toys, and this Roller Derby is no exception. Babies and kids love ramps and balls, so the Roller Derby offers the best of both worlds.

5. Little Me

Perhaps some of the best gifts for babies, or rather the parents, are well-made classic clothes.  Little Me makes some of the most beautiful clothes for babies and toddlers. The fabric is soft and durable, yet classic and age appropriate. I love that you can invest in their clothes and pass them down to younger siblings or other families.

6. Aden and Anais

Aden and Anais seems to always make it onto my baby gift list, and all for good reason. I love their products and so do kids! I’m currently coveting the Dream Blanket, and will actually be getting my little dude this dream blanket for Christmas. He’s grown out of his baby blanket and has always loved the muslin blankets from A&A. This bigger size will accommodate kids and adults too!

7. Tommee Tippee

Tommee Tippee is another all-time favorite baby brand, quite simply because the products work well for us. The Truly Spill Proof Straw Cup is one of our most used kid products right now, so I am going to be getting a few more as stocking stuffers! These Sippys are one of the only ones that I know won’t leak and they use the straw design which is what I need for my growing toddler.

8. Stride Rite

Another all-time favorite practical baby gifts are Stride Rite shoes. The thing about Stride Rite is that they fit well and always look sharp. I appreciate the SRT Technology that Stride Rite employs in some of their early walker shoes, which helps to stabilize those wobbly baby feet. 

2014 Holiday Gift Guide Sneak Peek

And because Christmas is just two months away, I’m reluctantly, but excitedly looking ahead to the holidays. Actually, I’ve been thinking about the holidays since the summer because of all of the holiday press previews.  I’m finally organizing my thoughts and ideas for this year’s holiday guide. As in years past, I will be categorizing my guide, starting age and possibly by theme.  So, as a fun preview, here’s a sneak peek of The Next Kid Thing Holiday Gift Guide, babies and toddler edition.

NKTBabygiftguide14The items feature above have been included in NKT at one point or another. Here’s a round up of just a few of the items I’ll be featuring in our gift guide:

  • Starting with the Stokke Steps, babies and tots can grow with this sleek seating system. 
  • The Jack Spade/Kate Spade for Gap collaboration has my heart all aflutter, so I couldn’t help but include the fun blue oxford and striking red ballet flats with a gift bow detail at the bottom right.  
  • Feeding gear and other practical baby items are among some of my personal favorite stocking stuffers and add-on gifts. As always, Tommee Tippee keeps it cool with these sweet section plates and Truly Spill Proof Straw Cups
  • Stride Rite’s Isaiah Motion will keep the kids on their toes for the holidays. 
  • Aden + Anais will forever be one of my go-to baby gifts because of its versatility and sustainability. liam the brave sweet dream gift set would double as a gift for mama and babe. 
  • When it comes to classic kid powered toys, Melissa and Doug can do no wrong. Throw some pancakes into the mix, Melissa and Doug’s delicious playset is certain to be a toddler must-have.   
  • Kitchen sets are a favorite when it comes to toddler big ticket gifts. Plan Toys’ newly redesigned kitchen set keeps its same small footprint and sustainable design, while showcasing its modern aesthetics. 
  • And, perhaps some of my favorite baby board books to date, Baby Lit turns classic literature into baby board books. With fantastic imagery and graphics, simple one-word story lines, these line of books are perfect baby (or rather, parent) gifts for classic lit aficionados or English Majors like yours truly.

Stay tuned for more holiday gift ideas to come! 

 

 

 

16 Practical Baby Arrival Gifts

It’s been the year of the baby for my circle of friends and family. Between a few neighbors to close friends to one of my cousins, we’re welcoming quite a few new babies these days. In fact, I was in the midst of stalking my good friend’s Facebook page the other morning, just waiting for a baby update, knowing that she went in for a C-section.  So, I decided to write this post instead.

Between baby showers and registries, everything is preplanned and dictated, there’s not much spontaneous gift-giving going when it comes to baby, or is there? For close friends and family, baby arrival gifts are a small token to welcome and congratulate families. When gifting for baby’s arrivals, think beyond the tchotchkes and excess and head straight to the practical gifts. New parents don’t necessarily need more stuffed animals or ceramic sleeping babies, so when in doubt, give them something they will use.

After checking out remaining items on their registries, I love bringing my closest friends and relatives gifts that I’ve tried and loved. In other words: I love gifting baby products that my friends didn’t know they would need. On that end, here are just a few of my favorite practical baby arrival gifts.

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1. My absolute favorite gift to give friends are aden+anais swaddles. Over the past few years, this line of super soft and versatile muslin blankets has grown. They have exclusive prints for various retail partners and carry an assortment of other products such as bibs, sleeping bags and full size blankets.  But for me, the aden+anais blankets are possibly one of the most versatile baby products. I loved using these swaddles as a sunshade (sorry, not a fan of those special blankets made for carriers), as a burp cloth, nursing cover, and of course, as a swaddle blanket. Because I used these blankets so much, I made sure to have several onhand at all time. I’ve even seen babies adopt the swaddles as their lovies; that’s a true testament to how much use these blankets truly get. 

Honest New Baby Arrival Kit

2. Diapers, hands down, are one of the most practical baby gifts for new parents. On average, newborns go through 12-15 diapers a day, making them a huge commodity for new parents. If the new parents didn’t already stock up on their diapers, consider getting them a new baby kit, like the one from Honest. This kit is a sampler pack, and comes with 7 diapers, 2 small packs of wipes, hand sanitizer spray, shampoo and body wash, face and body lotion, healing balm and baby teether.  Looking to splurge or chip in for a group gift for new baby? What about a diaper and wipes bundle, which starts at $79 a month.

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3. A home-cooked meal is always a generous gesture for new parents adjusting to their new normal. For out of town friends or family, I usually send pre-made meals or delicious frozen meals. The less effort involved, the better. One of my favorite resources pre-made meals is Fresh Direct since they deliver to my area now. Don’t have Fresh Direct near you or the new parents? Try ordering delivery from one of their favorite restaurants. Omaha Steaks and Schwann’s are both well known delivery serves that ship to many areas.

Earth Mama Angel Baby C-Mama Healing Salve

4. For many new moms, c-sections are unplanned and usually a medical necessity. In my case, my older guy was stuck and was in fetal distress. As someone who had a difficult recovery and didn’t get much advice, I appreciated when an acquaintance told me about getting some balms and other stuff for my recovery and soothing the incision. So, for close friends who had c-sections, I like giving them healing gifts. Earth Mama Angel Baby C-Mama Healing Salve is a favorite, and one that boasts natural ingredients like calendula, st. john’s wort, olive oil and a lot of other goodness.

 

 

5. NüRoo Pocket
The NüRoo Pocket is a baby wearing shirt that promotes skin to skin contact in the newborn phase. The shirt features a cross and hug closure that provides a custom fit as your body changes and baby grows. I met the creators of this amazing product a few years back and have been smitten ever since. This pocket is much different than carriers or slings, it gives more accessibility for skin contact while giving mama some mobility.

 

6. Custom ArtCustom artwork is a rare find these days. I love personalized art as baby gifts because it’s a chance to celebrate the new babe with a unique gift. To be safe, consider getting a modest size piece that would complement nursery decor. Paper Cut ABCs custom art from Minted is a fun framed piece that would dress up a nursery or playroom. Baby’s name personalized at the bottom makes this gift that much more special. 

 

7. Photo Gift Card
With the prevalence of social media, the news of baby’s arrival is practically instant these days, complete with a photo slideshow! Call me old fashioned, but there’s nothing better than a classic paper baby announcement. While gifting a baby announcement itself wouldn’t be ideal, perhaps gifting a gift card to a photo site like Minted would be helpful for new parents. If announcements aren’t in the new parents’ realm, other stationary or printed photos of baby’s first few days would be a gift they’ll always remember. I can’t tell you the last time I had photos printed of my second son, but if I had a gift card, then my walls my be more even with both kids’ photos. 

8. Baby hat
Babies have to wear hats to keep them warm, especially fall and winter babes. Most layette outfits come with those knit hats, but a truly warm, well-made but stylish baby hats are hard to find. I particularly love the look of this sweater bear hat from Baby Gap. The gray makes is modern but neutral, and a nice change from the pinks and blues. 

9. Personalized baby robe
Bathtime is quality time for many families. For new parents, bath time takes on a whole new meaning. A fun personalized baby bath robe is a luxury, but also one that comes in handy when trying to wrangle a wet baby. The personalization on these plush robes from Red Envelope set them apart.

 

 

10.  Unicorn 
Pottery Barn has almost everything a baby and kid could ever need, including unicorns! While a unicorn isn’t a necessity, a fun playmat that isn’t a blanket always comes in handy. The unicorn is just something different and cool!

11. California Baby gift set
Chances are, the new mom received a lifetime supply of soaps and lotions at their shower—or did they? Every shower is different and every new parent is different. I had 3 baby showers, yet I didn’t receive any lotions or soaps until my friend sent me this exact California Baby gift set. I fell in love with all the different scents and I’ve been a loyal fan ever since. The thing about baby soap and shampoos, they last for awhile and smell so good!

 

12. Patemm 
We change a lot of diapers during the baby days. It helps when we have stylish, but durable changing pads to help us out! Patemm is another one of my favorite gifts. They’re a luxury, but truly different. I appreciate the round shape and ability to store items in the pockets. Since we cloth diapered, Patemm pads were always our savior.

13.  Baby medicine kit
One of the many things new parents often overlook is a medicine kit for baby.  Sure, they’ve stocked up on thermometers and lotion, but what about medicine cabinet essentials for the first few months? Gripe Water was one of the must-haves for my first baby, yet I had no idea where to get it. Now, it’s practically everywhere, but as a new mom i had no idea where/how to get this necessity to calm my baby. Think of other baby essentials that might come in handy and send them some tips while you’re at it!

14. Sweet onesies
Selfies anyone? Baby may not necessarily need another onesie, but who can resist fun catchphrases or silly slogans on baby clothing? And Instagram Star? Genius. The babies practically own Instagram on my feed! 

15. Pampering for mom
Whether it’s a beautiful nightgown with nursing accessibility or a generous spa card, mama needs a lot of loving too. If you’re family, ask to watch baby while mom naps. Make her go out for an hour to roam Target for an hour…anything, really, to feel a little “normal” helps. I personally loved getting a mani/pedi gift card, as well as comfy pjs that were incision-friendly AND nursing friendly. Belabumbum is a wonderful brand that has a beautiful range of loungewear for maternity and new mamas.

16. Baby socks
Not just any socks, but fun socks! Trumpette is best known as the novelty sock gifts for babes. I love the cute shoe designs, especially these argyle socks and loafers! Since babies don’t need to wear socks and baby socks always seem to disappear in the wash, you really can’t have enough cute little socks! One of the best things about these socks, other than being super cute, they actually stay on those baby feet!

But, as I always say to my friends, what works for me might not work for you. (In essence, gift thoughtfully and save those receipts!) Happy baby shopping!

Review: Mega Bloks Super Megaforce Sky Ship Showdown

Last month, our friends at Saban sent us a Super Mega package in honor of the new episodes of Power Rangers Super Megaforce, which airs on Saturdays at noon on Nickelodeon. 

We had the chance to check out the brand new Super Megaforce Sky Ship Showdownfrom Mega Bloks. This brand new 306-piece set includes a buildable Red Ranger Sky Ship Zord and features a working launcher. In the set, you can also build Damara’s evil ship, and get the Red Ranger and Damaras micro action figures into the mix.  It currently retails for $19.99 at Toys ‘R Us, Amazon and Kohl’s.

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It took us a few hours after school to finish up the Super Megaforce Sky Ship Showdown. For my 6 year old, it took a lot of patience and time to focus on completing the project. There’s always that awesome sense of accomplishment every time we finish a construction project. Biggie had a great time working on the Super Megaforce Sky Ship Showdown.

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 We also loved checking out the Power Rangers Super Megaforce Red Ranger Key and the San Diego Comic-Con exclusive Mighty Morphin Green Ranger Translucent Key from Bandai.

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The keys activate special features in other Super Megaforce toys such as the Deluxe Legendary Morpher, Battle Gear and all the items in the Zord Builder Collection. And I love this feature: when you use your smart phone’s camera, you can scan any Ranger Key with the free Power Rangers Scanner App and morph yourself into any Legendary Ranger onscreen. So cool.

 

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With the Ranger Keys anyone can enter the Power Rangers “Unlock the Power” instant win game and sweepstakes. Be sure to download the Power Rangers Scanner app for a chance to win coupons and toy prize packs now through December 31, 2014.

 

Full disclosure: a sample was provided to facilitate this review. I am a Saban Brandbassador and was provided with products to share the latest updates on Saban Brands. As always, all opinions are my own.

Project Nursery Launches Online Shop

Project Nursery, one of the preeminent style resources for nursery design and beyond, has just welcomed a new addition to their budding media empire: their e-commerce shop for nursery decor and gifts. The new online shop features timeless designs and well-recommended pieces and products often featured on their site.  


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Co-Founders, Melisa Fluhr and Pam Ginocchio have been showcasing stylish nurseries with thoughtful design on Project Nursery for over six years, the online shop reflects the curated products and exclusive collaborations synonymous with the site’s panache for elegance and design.

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Having covered new and notable kid gear over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one of the co-founders at baby-centric media events. I’ve personally been a fan of Project Nursery and am always drawn to their beautiful booths whenever they exhibit at Big City Mom’s Biggest Baby Shower.

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Their new online shop is simple to navigate and encompasses the same modern yet timeless aesthetic in nursery design that we’ve grown to love. I love the tassel garland in the party section, the Belabumbum pjs for mom and the gorgeous crib bedding sets. If you’re expecting, have a new babe or on the hunt for a truly stylish baby gift, make sure you check out Project Nursery’s Shop!

Congrats on the new online shop, Project Nursery!

Review: Disney Boys’ Book of Fun and Boy Stuff-Paper Planes

In between road trips and time at the beach, we’ve been reading quite a bit this summer.  My soon-to-be first grader absolutely enjoys reading everything in sight, so it’s been quite fitting to be a part of Parragon’s Book Buddies program.

 

 

Last month’s Book Buddy titles included Disney Boys’ Book of Fun and Boy Stuff- Paper Planes.  Both books were perfect for my six year old to bring along on our road trip to Va to my high school reunion.  The books kept him entertained for most of the seven hour trip.  He loved flipping through the different planes and learning how to perfect his craft.

 

Disney Boys’ Book of Fun is a beautiful hardcover book filled with colorful pages of beloved boy-centric characters.  From Mickey and pals to Lightning McQueen to Buzz, this deluxe activity book is geared to boys who appreciate reading, doing mazes, drawing and doing puzzles.  

IMG 5679IMG 5681Each page is a different activity that keeps kids engaged and unplugged.  My son, who has recently discovered the joy of comic books, loves the different comic-style pages included in the book.  I love how comics teach kids the importance of story sequence, something that’s of importance for young, eager readers.  Another feature that I absolutely loved is the different games that can be played just like a board game.  Again, so perfect for traveling or simply unplugging at home.

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Boy Stuff-Paper Planes is yet another relevant title for my young reader.  This book helps kids to make cool paper airplanes with simplified templates.  This kit includes a book with instructions on how to fold 25 different airplanes, a pad of pre-printed templates and a variety of stickers to decorate the planes.   IMG 5684IMG 5687IMG 5690 The planes range from standard rockets to Birds of Prey to Robots—you name it, this book covers it.  My son loved how practically everything is included for handcrafting a fleet of super cool paper planes.  The only thing we were missing were scissors for several of the templates.  This kit is absolutely perfect for any kit who appreciates the art of making and flying paper planes.

 

Full disclosure:  These books were provided to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.  Affiliate links are included above.

Rocking Out with the Julius Jr. Rock ‘n Playhouse

When it comes to music, we love to rock out every chance we get.  We recently had the chance to check out one of Fisher Price’s latest toys, Julius Jr.’s Rock ‘n Playhouse.

 

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When Julius Jr. uses his imagination and creativity to create a playhouse with a cardboard box, awesome things happen.  Though our kids can create their own awesome on their own with regular ol’ boxes, this Julius Jr. Rock ’n Playhouse is a great playset for toddlers and preschoolers.  The Playhouse is a recreation of what can be seen on Julius Jr., including a spaceship, skateramp, disco ball and slide.  What makes the Rock ’n Playhouse so great is the catchy music and Julius Jr. figures and accessories.

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My little guy absolutely loves pushing the dance floor and watching it light up and play music.  He loves to sing and dance, so the musical dance floor is, perhaps, our favorite feature.  The cool skate ramp though?  That comes in close second.  You can’t go wrong with a playset that has a dance floor, skateramp and monkey that rocks out!

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The Julius Jr. Rock ’n Playhouse is available at major retailers and retails for $49.99.  Julius Jr. is on Nick Jr. at 5pm Monday-Friday and Sundays from 10-11am!

Full disclosure:  A sample was provided to facilitate this review and as a part of the Saban Brandbassador program.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Tommee Tippee Fiesta Fun Time Collection Now Available on Amazon

Leave it to Tommee Tippee to change it up and add some vibrant colors to the otherwise pastel-hued baby gear aisles.  Tommee Tippee has introduced the Fiesta Fun Time collection, which is now available on Amazon.  This limited edition collection features Tommee Tippee’s Closer to Nature bottles in six jewel-toned colors including Green Glory, Turquoise Treat, Party Purple, Rascal Red, Grass Green and Sea Breeze Blue.  The Fiesta Fun Time Collections comes packaged with all the aforementioned colors in the 9 oz. Closer to Nature TT bottles.

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These BPA-free bottles feature the Easi-Vent valve which aims to eliminate excessive air flow. Breastfeeding mamas on the go will appreciate the breast-like nipples that mimic bfing.  As an exclusive bfing mama, TT bottles were among the only bottles that worked for us.  There was never nipple confusion, and TT bottles just made sense for us.  And as someone who LOVES color, I absolutely love this variety pack of the Fiesta Fun Time TT bottles.  My personal favorite color in the collection is the Party Purple, not just because we love to party, but purple for epilepsy awareness.

The Tommee Tippee Fiesta Fun Time Collection includes six boldly colored 9 ounce bottles and is available now at Amazon.com

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post, but as always, all opinions on NKT are my own.  Affiliate links are included in this post.